I am quite busy at the moment.
So, some “new” content to keep this project afloat on a somewhat regular basis. This is in the semi-memoir mold; actually it’s an excerpt from an 11,000 word long epic wholly unrelated to criticism (which I’m guessin’ will be the focus of this blog?). Werner Herzog gets mentioned. Enjoy.
I WAS GOING TO WALK TO AUSTIN
Inspiration soon struck after Natasha told me about the Stereo Total show, probably back in July. It was a hazy notion, a bit of escapism that nagged whenever the rainclouds above my head failed to dissipate: when the time came, I would walk from San Antonio to Austin, roughly eighty some miles, and meet up with Tash there.
A feat far from unprecedented. Glorious Werner Herzog, after all, claims to have walked 700 kilometers across Europe in the belief that crossing such a distance would save dying film historian Lotte Eisner. There’s some credence to his claim, if not his belief (though she did live nine years longer to see her 87th birthday, so who knows) – a man who (all documented on film, mind you) once ate a shoe when he lost a bet, has been shot with an air rifle with scarcely a wince, and has commandeered an opera house over the Peruvian mountains, is probably best described as a man of extremes, one who ensures that no words leave his mouth lightly. Never mind the others who regularly cross distances similar to my own, people with light clothing and considerable knowledge of footwear, hydration schedules and fondly remembered blisters. I don’t intend upon joining their ranks or engaging in a pissing contest with a man who once nearly murdered Klaus Kinski – just blowing off some steam Ishmael-style, I guess.
Ah, to weather elements more basic and immediate than the problems waiting to greet me when I awoke each morning – now there’s an idea. Not original, but potent; I could easily envision every cycle that awaited me as I trekked my way across a territory previously known only through the impenetrable boundary of the windshield. My naive wonder as I set out, with an optimism borne aloft by sheer delusion for the first few miles and a good omen of my journey found at every fifty feet; thirty miles in – the delirium of finding myself suspended between two of the big dots on the map, thoroughly adrift, the futility of every step taken (those steps now pretty much sad plods on the pavement) and every mile seemingly expanded to the length of two or three; the final stretch – my back bent in sad defeat (the cause of who knows how many future chiropractic bills) and the exhilaration as I cross some invisible finish line only to collapse at the doorstep when I’ve finally made my way to wherever the hell Natasha is and then waking up the next day to realize I’ve missed all the jolly revelry had come to enjoy. Adventures ahoy!
Of course it was a whim. But, for about an hour every day, my idle musing would solidify into a concrete goal, a focus for my concentration with attendant atlases and web searches. And, my rational side indulging those brief moments everyday when the distance on foot between my front door and Austin seemed roughly that of my front door and the corner store, I decide to practice twice a week – Sunday mornings and the stray vacant afternoon, typically.
It’s not difficult to imagine just as you’re starting out on a walk – with no weariness in your feet or any ever-lengthening distance behind you to be returned to – that, with just one step then another, you could make your way across any distance, repeat those two steps on a loop somehow, first one then the one right after and never three or four, just one and two to be followed by one and two ad infinitum. You’d make easy work of any given distance, from A to B, however you want to define A and B: here to that point a bit in the distance where the road meets the sky or from San Antonio to Austin or from Mars to Venus.
And I can’t neglect the sun up above, an absolute god when you’re in South Texas in the summer. It accompanies my every footfall with every few hundred feet another solid wall of heat to crash into and all I can do is rebuilding this vague and silly ambition afterwards. But sometimes it smiles upon me, like it does on the Raisin Bran box, even allowing me another reverie. It occurs to me that, maybe, when I see that shimmering haze a mile or two down the road, I’ll reach it and my ever-present perspiration will go a bit further, with my body – bone, flesh, everything – dissolving completely; and beyond that I’ll end up as pure thought, maybe more than a notion but less than a ghost. And unhindered by that unnecessary 180 pounds, I’d would just move.
But after a few weeks of this, when my average walking speed maxes out at about four miles an hour (probably a liberal estimate) and the ninety-eight degree heat seems to double every fifteen minutes, my daily bouts of conviction diminish considerably (as you knew they would). So I decide to compromise with my burst of inspiration, hoping I can cup my hands around it and keep it lit against the winds of common sense – a new destination: San Marcos – a mere forty-five miles away from San Antonio and a cheap Greyhound bus away from Austin. That won’t be brooked, of course – soon thereafter, my idle musing stagnates, stalls, and then just lays down and dies, its bones, at this moment, bleaching quite nicely under a very consistent late summer sun.